Friday, June 27, 2008

Reading Josephine Tey,

It has been a long time since I read the Daughters of Time. Josephine Tey first came into my life when I was in my twenties, and she, alas, was nearing the end of her life.

Elizabeth Mackintosh, who wrote under the pseudonyms of Josephine Tey and Gordon Deviot, died when she was only fifty-six. As I look back I think - one is so much in their prime at fifty-six. Well, looking back (despondently) even seventy seems young (sigh)

I am enjoying re-reading her mystery novels, and find the hero of these stories, Inspector Alan Grant, so charming he would steal as many literary hearts as Inspector Morse has wooed with his television series. I confess to not having read any of the Deviot plays, not being particularly drawn to this genre because of my love for descriptive writing.

The Tey novels are a wonderful mixture of mystery, characterization and beautiful literary pictures of the English and Scottish countrysides.

A sentence from The Singing Sands, wherein Inspector Grant has met up with Wee Archie, a pseudo revolutionist in sagging kilt and derelict bonnet, possessor of a thin and reedy voice, - as Archie departs from this chance meeting.

"And the dragonfly creature with its mosquito voice went away in the brown distance."

And here, from The Man in the Queue...

"A light rain fell across the window-pane with stealthy fingers. The end of the good weather, thought Grant. A silence followed, dark and absolute. It was as if an advance guard, a scout, had spied out the land and gone away to report. There was the long, far-away sigh of the wind that had been asleep for days. Then the first blast of the fighting battalions of the rain struck the window in a wild rattle. The wind tore and raved behind them, hounding them to suicidal deeds of valour. And presently the drip, drip from the roof began a constant gentle monotone beneath the wild symphony, intimate and soothing as the tick of a clock. Grant's eyes closed to it, and before the squall had retreated, muttering in the distance, he was asleep."

The far-away sigh of the wind, the muttering in retreat, and in between the wildness of the storm. Beautifully expressed.... A wonderful little paragraph that paints a picture, tells a story and provides background music all at the same time through the creative use of words. A plus to the endearing qualities of the stories she tells. Tey's work is scattered throughout with such delightful phrases, sentences and paragraphs. What a shame that we lost her so early.

I pass these books on to Husband, to share the pleasure.

Hot weather and the garden is spreading out in all directions, with total abandon.

The roses have finished their first flush and the delphiniums appear a little shabby, but the lilies are coming into their own, along with great swathes of shasta daisies.....

I spent an hour making lavender bottles today, - felt quite frivolous after all the toing and frowing of the go-fering job. Big Smiles.....inside and out.

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